Women in Yeats' Poetry | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 24, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:26 AM, April 24, 2017

Women in Yeats' Poetry

AUTHOR: SUJIT KUSUM PAUL

Publisher: Bengali Literary Resource Centre (BLRC), Toronto

Bangladesh Distributor: Murdhonyo Prokashoni

Price: BD Taka 300

William Butler Yeats, the greatest star in the 20th century sky of literature, was at the same time a poet, dramatist, Irish Senator and active organizer. A Nobel laureate of 1923, Yeats, the 'last romantic' continuously changed the style of poetry and produced modern poetry tinged with reality, metaphysics, comprehensive life and global theme. Hence, the appeal of his poems is universal and classic. Two principal sources genuinely inspired the poems of Yeats - love for his motherland and intense attraction for women, particularly for beautiful ones. Women were like Muses to him. His biographer Joseph Hassett's remarkable book 'W.B. Yeats and Muses' tells rightly – “These interesting women rallied around him, trying to keep him alive, trying to keep him inspired.” Among them the most significant one was possibly Maud Gonne.

Maud Gonne, the tall, beautiful actress and a woman of considerable social standing, was an Irish Nationalist and an active campaigner for the release of political prisoners in Ireland. She was outspoken and passionate about Irish politics. Despite being raised in France, Gonne was well aware of events in her homeland and nurtured in her bosom the freedom of Ireland from British rule. She came to meet Yeats' father John Butler Yeats, the well-known painter and a member London Elite society, at his London house to know his opinion regarding the independence of Ireland. Romance developed between Yeats and Maud here at the very first sight. Yeats was immediately infatuated and had fallen madly in love with her. Many males perhaps wanted to woo Maud and spent time with her but Yeats was a different kind of man in her life who wanted to hug her soul which is travelling in the world of spiritualism. Maud loved Yeats who proposed her five times but embraced rejection each time.

Sujit Kusum Paul, a former student of the English Department of Chittagong University and now an expatriate living in Toronto, Canada, has neatly fabricated all such eventful chapters of W.B. Yeats' life in his first book 'Yeatser Kobitay Naree o Nikunjo' (Women and Domain in Yeats' Poetry), possibly the first and a complete one on the topic published in Bengali language.

Time could never keep Yeats back, rather he moved parallel with the movement and rhythm of time. His idea of love got evolved gradually while running after Maud. As he had to move parallel, his idea of love also got changed with the passage of time. In his early poems, the importance of spiritualism is greater than sexual affair. In the poem of his middle age, the traditional and destructive process of love is described but he did not want to see love as an eternal thing. In the poems written at the last stage of his life, he tried to find the perfection of love in the inseparable and continuous relation between body and mind. That was the final perception of Yeats regarding love. This mysterious woman inspired Yeats to write universal poems like 'Among School Children', 'Leda and the Swan', 'The Second Coming', 'Sailing to Byzantium', 'A Man Young and Old', and many more. In an undivided breathing line, the readers would discover that following the departure of novelist Olivia Shakespeare from Yeats' life, a triangle of love was weaved where Maud Gonne formulated a spiritual union with the poet W B Yeats who loved Iseult Gonne, the daughter of Maud Gonne who wrote in a letter to Yeats, "I have prayed so hard to have all earthly desire taken from my love for you ... and dearest, I have prayed and I am praying still that the bodily desire for me may be taken from you too."

Thus the book 'Yeatser Kobitai Nari O Nikunjo' accommodates a series of events of love, romance, proposal, passionate union, rejection and platonic love in the life of Yeats. Sujit, a member of International Yeats Society, has used his colourful touch to make them further lively before us. Bengali Literary Resource Centre (BLRC) Inc, of Toronto, Canada published the book in 2016, which is distributed in Bangladesh through Murdhonyo Prokashoni.

The readers will enjoy the meetings and writings between Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) and W B Yeats (1865-1939). Yeats recited Tagore's poems in the London residence of Sir William Rothenstein (1872-1945) in presence of Ezra Pound (1885-1972) who introduced Tagore among the intellectual readers of America by publishing some of his poems, before the publication of 'Gitanjali' in London in 2012, in the 'Poetry' magazine of Chicago founded by Harriet Monroe (1860-1936) in 1912 and now published by Poetry Foundation. The author of 'Yeatser Kobitai Nari O Nikunjo' has become tremendously successful in creating a context where the Liberation War of Bangladesh and the Irish Nationalist Movement stood in a parallel track. The author Sujit reflected the presence of poet Shamsur Rahman with his poem 'Tomake Paoar Jonye Hey Swadhinota' in the same screen where Yeats projected his poem 'Easter 1916', one of the famous poems of twentieth century. As a student of English Literature, Shamsur Rahman might have the opportunity to be inspired by Yeats' line 'O when may it suffice?' before writing

'Ar Kotobar Vaste Hobe Roktogongay?

Ar Kotobar Dekhte Hobe Khandobdahon?'

In this chapter of the book, the readers will feel that the souls of all the martyrs of Bangladesh Liberation War have become the imageries of sacrifices while Yeats tried to find and say, 'A terrible beauty is born.'

The students of Honours and Masters of English departments can find this book as a useful one mostly because of its Bengali rendering. It will help them go deep not only into Yeats' life of love and romance, the readers would also have the taste of the creative aspect of T. S. Eliot, Robert Browning, P. B. Shelley, John Keats, William Blake, Jane Austen and many more who have been discussed in the context of Yeats' intellect and talent. Basically, the book is a research work based on the poems of Yeats but the lively and artful description of events by Sujit and their further knitting with his dexterous hands and devotion to Yeats has given it the taste of a novel. It will take the readers to a world of special interest and enchantment without allowing them to believe that they are reading the critical analysis of poems of love, romance, romantic love or spiritual love that occurred between Yeats and the beautiful women he met in his eventful life. Rather, the book will convince the readers that they are going through an interesting novel. Sujit has used very aesthetic and ornamental language to picture the events. In a few cases, some sentences may seem a little bit lengthy and hard to understand to the common readers. Still, the teachers and the students will find it very useful and beyond this circle of people, the common readers can have its special taste as the book deals with love, romance, separation, historical events, and how love can exist without bodily touch or infatuation leading to spiritual union.

 

The reviewer is  a literary critic and writer, works for BRAC Education Program.

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